Monday, October 18, 2010

More Prevedouros Analysis: What Can He Mean, Saying Rail Would Not Be of Any Use During Freeway Closures, Tsunamis and Floods?

We’re parsing Dr. Panos Prevedouros’s recent article in Hawaii Reporter again, since the more we slice and dice, the more gaping the holes are in his anti-rail, pro-HOT lane arguments.

The piece serves two purposes – to cast rail in the worst possible light while simultaneously lauding HOT lanes, but as we pointed out the other day, the whole HOT lane idea rests on a highly questionable principle.

HOT lanes are toll roads, and the way they allegedly keep traffic flowing is by setting tolls high enough to price many people out of using the lanes. In other words, as congestion increases, tolls are increased to discourage enough drivers from entering so the lanes remain relatively free of traffic for those who can afford to pay.

If traffic starts to slow because “too many” cars are on the system, tolls for new people preparing to enter the lanes are jacked up and will continue to be raised as long as it takes to price enough drivers out of the market and thin the traffic.

That hardly seems like a progressive, all-inclusive and equitable way to treat the traveling public, but that’s what Dr. Prevedouros and Mr. Cliff Slater advocate as a way to plan for Honolulu’s cross-town traffic for two, three and four generations from now.

(The more we hear about HOT lanes, the more they sound like a commuting variation of “the early bird gets the worm.” The early commuter gets the cheaper ride, so for that reason alone, rail beats HOT lanes hands down. The price to ride the train won’t vary during the day. Sleep in, rail riders!)

9:30 pm UPDATE--Feds still back rail project: Mayor

“Metro Accessibility”

Dr. Prevedouros’s article reaches curious conclusions about HOT lanes’ ability to allegedly provide better access than rail to what he calls “non-work activities.” He dismisses rail’s appeal for shopping, social visits, night clubbing and the like, then drops this stunner:

“Rail loses 1 point (in his scoring) for being unable to be of any use during an emergency such as freeway closure, flooding, hurricane and tsunami.”

We have to wonder how Dr. Prevedouros could reach that conclusion. Honolulu’s elevated rail system will be completely independent of streets, roads, highways and freeways. If anything, rail would be of tremendous use during freeway closures, which presumably could easily include any HOT lanes that might be built. Rail will be a congestion-free way to travel unimpeded by such closures.

Let’s look at his other imagined emergencies – hurricanes, flooding and tsunamis. We’ll call it a draw between rail and HOT lanes during hurricanes; nobody should be out in 120-mph winds. But what about flooding and (rare) tsunamis?

In such emergencies, Honolulu rail would be elevated 30 feet above the flooded streets that cars using HOT lanes eventually would have to navigate once they left their elevated platform. Advantage rail!

We’ll continue examining Dr. Prevedouros’s views as expressed in his recent article in a day or two.


Anonymous said...

I believe Panos touted building underpasses at key intersections to improve local traffic flow. Aside from the technical and cost challenges, wouldn't his underpass solution be even more useless due to flooding, hurricane, or tsunami?

Doug Carlson said...

That's a reasonable conclusion, Anonymous. And as we pointed out here in our 10/15 post, underpasses as low as 8 feet -- as Panos and Cliff Slater advocate -- would be a serious threat to the well-being of drivers of high-cab trucks that wander into one of them.

Anonymous said...

Doug, the only word I can come up with to summarize this article is "childish". It feels like it was written by a 10 yr old.

First, HOTlane performance has a track record across the nation and it is 100% successful in reducing traffic congestion regardless of income levels. Rail has a 0% record of significantly reducing congestion.

I can't see how HOTlanes, which will probably cost around $2-$3 to use are less "progressive, inclusive, and equitable" when a family of 4 trying to ride the rail will pay $6-$8 and take far more time to travel the same route.

And your hurricane analysis is, well, childish. Does anyone really believe that in a hurricane our electricity will be operating? Unlike cars, which are self-powered, rail relies on electricity. The flickering lights in my house and the UPS battery backup beeping during perfect weather reminds me we almost have 2nd world country power quality in Hawaii. In severe weather, rail will be the FIRST thing that fails.

Really, Doug, this article is like a 10 yr old wrote it. You've normally got good stuff (though we disagree). This is not one of those times.

Doug Carlson said...

Well, let me try to elevate my analysis at least to that of a teenager's, since they're considered smarter than we were at that age.

Do you intend to be on the roads during a hurricane and will you feel compelled to drive in the hours immediately after one? If so, you might become a statistic. Hurricanes are relatively rare here -- two in the past three decades -- and outages are relatively short, so making your case on the "hurricane factor" seems relatively uninspired.

Second, have you stopped to consider the total cost of operating a car? There's no way that cost can compare to transit's costs. See Yes2Rail's 10/21 post.

Thanks for reading and for your overall evaluation of this blog, and I encourage you to reconsider your arguments that peg me at 10 years of age. Grant me 14 at the least! Aloha.